Finding hidden gems around UH Hilo Farm and campus

Two major reclamation projects were taken on during lab time, as well as a collaborative effort in the final week of classes, to clear areas at the UH Hilo Farm Lab and by Nowelo bridge on campus.

By Trevor Dopp.

Students standing in orchard and holding hand tools.
Students work on clearing overgrowth at the UH Hilo Farm Lab.

In the far corners of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Agricultural Farm Laboratory at Pana‘ewa exist a few forgotten gems that the prolific growth of the forest has encroached upon. Underneath the vast network of fast growing grasses and vines, lies an untapped resource of agricultural potential.

Through the shuffle of changing class schedules and finance/budget driven management of resources, past students’ labor and planning awaits to be mined by future semester’s sweat and tears, as long as class enrollment permits. This issue was directly addressed by Associate Prof. Norman Aracon’s HORT 352: Tropical Fruit Crop Production class this semester.

Two major reclamation projects were taken on during lab time, as well as a collaborative effort in the final week of classes between his AG230, HORT 262, and HORT 352 classes.

Farm project

The first project was thinning, harvesting, and defoliating the neglected banana patches at the back end of the farm. At first glance they were more “Messa” than Musa acuminata, but after removing dead foliage from the producing plants, and removing all ripe bunches then cutting down those plants, they were once again in top shape.

Group of student posing for photo in orchard, some are holding hand tools used to clear land, red gas can in foreground.
Clearing an overgrown row of matured mangoes at UH Hilo Ag Farm Lab.

The patches were also thinned out to give airflow. Unsurprisingly to any AG students with farm-field experience, fire ants and prevailing rains were a challenge. It took three attempts to finally finish, and in a last act of mercy to all healthy cultivars remaining, one stand of bunchytop infected M. acuminata were removed to insure future health of their neighbors.

Next the class tackled an overgrown row of mango (Mangifera indica) on the backside of the farm. There they found head high cane grass, a web of vines choking out the trees, and multiple fallen branches that would need to be removed.

The first visit was met with yet more rain, so they postponed for two weeks and with no rain to hold them back, handled the situation with efficiency. All vines and grasses were cut, and the dead branches were hauled off, leaving it looking much cleaner, and hopefully more productive than before.

Nowelo project

The final project was located at the AG230 plots near the Nowelo bridge and graveled parking lot on campus. Its original date was planned for Dec. 2, 2016, but due to flash flood warnings it had to be rescheduled for Dec. 9. The weather was beautiful that day and many students showed up, enticed by the opportunity to add a few extra credit points to their final grades.

Three male students clearing land of brush.
Clearing an overgrown area by the graveled parking lot by Nowelo bridge.

Every thing was mowed, trimmed, and weeded. A big mulch pile and pile of biochar were moved out of the parking lot, and the long standing and overgrown patch of sugar-cane was harvested, and cut back to the ground, opening a view of the gardens from the road, and all was well.


Trevor Dopp is a senior majoring in art with a minor in agriculture.